Category Archives: PR

What skills do you need to run a PR internship?

2012 is turning out to be quite a year.  Not only will the Taylor Bennett Foundation be running four PR internships, and increasing the intake from six graduates on each programme to eight but also, rather inconveniently, I am having a baby.

It was a planned pregnancy.  Well, planned in that we have been trying to conceive for nearly five years with no luck, but I never really had expected it to happen and so in terms of when the baby is due to make an appearance, it was not diarised.

For anyone who knows me well, you will realise that this has caused me endless sleepless nights.  My role at the Foundation is completely unique.  I have never met anyone who does my job elsewhere and so I take great pains to make sure I am not away on holiday when the internships are running so that someone else doesn’t have to take on tasks they never imagined they’d have to.  I never imagined, therefore, that I would be taking four months maternity leave in the middle of the year and leaving my precious interns in the hands of someone new.

The baby has been warned that it must appear on its due date of May 5th as to be early would be disastrous and to be late will mean mummy will be cross.  My friends have scoffed at the idea of a child who follows my spreadsheet but it will have to learn pretty quickly I tell you.

The question of who will manage the internship programmes while I am away is still up in the air.  We’ve had a few ideas but the decision of who takes over is down to the Foundation’s trustees so I have my fingers crossed they will go with my first choice.

Whoever it is will have to take on a bewildering array of tasks.  I have been running these programmes for two years now and I had never quite grasped the variety of things I do on a day to day basis.  To ease the cover person into the role, I have started compiling a “Guide to Running the Taylor Bennett Foundation Internships”.  It is twenty pages so far and I’m only up to what to do to recruit the interns and how to settle them in on their first week.

I am very lucky in that I love my role.  It is challenging, interesting and can be very rewarding, but it demands of me some unusual skills.

So, for those of you who fancy running such a scheme here are just some of the more random things you’ll be tasked with:

–          Make sure the interns understand how to change a toilet roll (no one likes going into the loo to find that the last roll has been used and not replaced)

–          Ensure you’re up to date with popular culture so as not to seem a million years old (I am 37 so to the average 22 year old I am ancient) and, if running an internship focussed on fashion PR, be clear in your understanding that Paul’s Boutique bags are chavvy and Mulberry are not

–          Be clear when giving instructions.  Graduates are used to pages of academic instructions with little room for interpretation.  If your directions aren’t clear, they’ll go off piste

–          When giving them career advice think about it from their mum’s point of view.  If it’s not advice you’d give your own child, it’s bad advice

–          Bring them cake.  Homemade is best, but if you’re six month’s pregnant and can’t be arsed to bake then Krispy Kremes also go down well

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Taylor Bennett Foundation – Diversity Internship Schemes 2012

In 2012 the Taylor Bennett Foundation (for which I am the Course Director) is running four more paid PR internship and training schemes designed to address the lack of black and ethnic minorities in the PR industry.

Application deadline for the Jan – Mar scheme run with Talk PR is midday on  19th December so get applying!

For more details go to our website www.taylorbennettfoundation.org

 

Click on the image below to read our recruitment advert.

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TV Shows Featuring PR

Had enough of PRing for one day?  Want to watch other people pretending to be PRs?  Here’s a handy list of TV shows featuring public relations:

Absolutely Fabulous

The West Wing

The Spin Crowd

Spin City

Sex and the City

Absolute Power

Twenty Twelve

The Thick of It

 

Thanks to the following people for helping to compile this list:

@chrisunlimited @willardfoxton @neilcomm

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Ten tips for job hunters

Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first break into PR, or a seasoned professional wanting to make your next move, job hunting can be a total drag.  Here’s ten tips for finding your next role.

1)      Set yourself a specific time for job applications.  If you’re out of work, then treat it like a 9 – 5 job.  Get up, make a cup of coffee, turn on your computer and start hunting.  Resist the urge to turn on the telly – Jezza Kyle is far too tempting.  Take a break for lunch and then get back to it until the end of the working day.  If you’re already in a job then set aside an hour every evening.

2)      Do your homework.  Before you apply make sure you understand the role and the company you are applying to.  Reflect your research in your covering letter and make sure each application is specific to that particular company.  Standard covering letters go in the bin.  If you are applying through a recruitment agency this is a little more difficult, but try to make your application as relevant to the role as possible.

3)      Keep a record.  A recent graduate once told me that he’d worked out it was taking him, on average, 33 applications to achieve one interview for a PR role.  That’s a hell of a lot of applications but it is not surprising.  Competition for roles, particularly at entry level, is fierce.  I generally advise graduates to aim for twenty five applications per week, and those people who are already in jobs to aim for one application a day.  With that amount of correspondence you need to keep a record of who you have written to, which position you were applying for, whether you had a response and any other info that might be useful – like a copy of the job advert or role specification so you can refer to it if you’re called for an interview.  Admin is tedious, but it will make your life easier in the long run.

4)      Be persistent. 90% of the companies you apply to won’t even acknowledge receipt of your application let alone give you feedback if you’re rejected.  Don’t take it personally.  Replying to job applicants takes a huge amount of time and administration and for some firms it’s really low on their list of priorities.  As a rule of thumb, if you haven’t heard back from a company in two weeks, you are unlikely to be called to interview.  Don’t give up though.  It may mean you’re not right for that role, but other positions make crop up that are more suitable so keep applying.

5)       Apply speculatively.  If you apply for a specific job you are competing against all the other people applying for that role.  If you write to a company speculatively here is less chance that you will be competing against others and that your letter will stand out.  Make it clear what you are available for – full time, part time, temporary, permanent, contract, internships etc.  Ask them to keep your details on file for any suitable vacancies and if you haven’t heard back from them in three months, write again.

6)      Network endlessly.  Use social network sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to follow influential PRs and get yourself noticed.  Go along to Tweet Ups, conferences and social events – lots of which are free to attend.   Make a point of collecting business cards and connecting with the people you have met after the event.

7)      Be realistic.  If you’ve got two years of experience and are currently paid £25,000 a year, don’t apply for Director level roles paying £100,000.  You’ll be wasting your time and that of the recruiter.

8)      Dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s.  Attention to detail is incredibly important when applying for jobs.  Make sure you address your application to the right person, and spell their name correctly.  Don’t just rely on spell check to pick up errors.  Proof read your CV and covering letters several times before you press send, and make sure you attach the relevant documents to your email.  Good writing and proof reading skills are required for most PR roles so it’s essential you can prove you have mastered the basics.

9)      Pay it forward.  If you spot a vacancy that would be great for a job hunting friend or acquaintance send them the link to the advert.   Hopefully, they will return the favour.

10)   Say thank you.  If you get a personal response to your application – even if it is a rejection – write and say thank you.  If you get an interview – even if you don’t get the job – write and say thank you.  If someone introduces you to a contact who then offers you an interview, write and thank the referrer.  Such a simple courtesy will make you stick in their minds and will make them more likely to recommend you again in the future.  Thank you letters and emails are rarer than you might imagine and are a really easy way to build your reputation as a thoughtful and friendly person to work with.

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Who should you be following?

Followtwitter

If you work in PR and you’re on Twitter, there’s a good chance that the people you follow are a mixture of colleagues, acquaintances and recommendations. How do you go about finding the really influential players in the industry, and which are the accounts with the most interesting tweets?  Here’s our short guide to who’s who.

PR People: This Peer Index list compiled by Andrew Bruce Smith is a good place to start.  Based on the PR Week Social Media Power Players list, originally published in February 2011, it is a comprehensive guide to those PR folk with a strong social media presence. Another list from Andrew is those listed in the PR Week Power Book.

Agencies:  Jon Priestly has listed the top UK PR agencies

Journalists: Stephen Davies has a great list of over 300 journalists which is worth checking out.

Jobs: For jobs in PR there are a number of Twitter accounts worth following including @UnicornJobs@PRJobsLondon, @vox-popPRcareers and @UKYoungPR.

Industry news: To catch up on the latest PR news @therealprmoment, @communicatemag, @Gorkana, @PRWeekUKNews, @Holmesreport, @esPResso_prnews and the PR Daily. 

Industry bodies: @CIPR, @PRCA_UK and for industry news on cultural diversity @Ignite_UKPR.

And of course, you should all follow me

 

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Five Tricky Interview Questions

Interviews
Do you dread that part of the job interview when you get a question that you just don’t know how to answer? Never fear, here’s a run down of five common interview questions and how to approach them.

 

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Oooof.  I really dislike this question.  I think it’s a bit lazy, but a lot of interviewers ask it.  They are looking to see how self critical you can be and whether you can give a balanced view.  The strength side of things tends not to be too difficult, particularly if you have a job description or advert to work from.   If they have asked for someone with a good eye for detail in the advert, it is a good idea to pick that out as a strength and give an example.  So you could say something like “I am a stickler for detail.  In my current role my colleagues always ask me to proof read their work as I am anal about typos and grammar.”  The weaknesses element of this question is more difficult.  The most common answer I have heard is “It can take me a while to get things done, because I’m such a perfectionist.”  Yawn.  I guarantee every recruiter has heard interviewees say that a million times.  The basis of the answer is sound – pick something negative and turn it into a positive – but the answer itself is rather dull.  So instead, pick something you know you are weaker on but that you are aware of and do something about.  For example, you could say “I am terribly impatient and get annoyed when other members of the team don’t deliver in time, but I have learned over the years that everyone’s working style is different so I try to be more laid back about it now and offer to help the others so that we meet the deadlines.”

 

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Here, the recruiter is looking to see if you are flighty and if you are really committed to staying in this industry.   Recently I interviewed some graduates for an entry level PR position.  When asked this question one of the interviewees replied “Oh, I’d love to be teaching in a primary school.”  They didn’t get the job.   Declaring that your real passions lie elsewhere is not the best technique for interviews.  Instead, you should make it clear that you would like to be in the industry you are interviewing for, and that hopefully you will have progressed into a more senior position.  You are then reinforcing your commitment to the job and making it clear that you have ambitions to build on your skills and experience.

 

Why should we hire you?

How good are you at selling yourself?  That’s what this question really means.  This is your opportunity to give a comprehensive picture of why you are better than the other ten candidates they are interviewing.    You need to find a balance between confidence and arrogance.   Saying “I’m the best” is arrogant.  Saying “I’m the best at my current firm and have handled some really difficult and demanding clients in the last twelve months so I think I could bring some useful skills and experience to your team” is confidence.  Justify your reasons with examples of your past experience. 

 

Why are there gaps on your CV?

If you have been out of the job market at some point, it is likely it will be picked up on in interview.  The rule of thumb here is, be honest.  You may have taken time out to have children, for example.   Tell the interviewer that and that you now have excellent childcare arrangements and are committed to going back to work.    In the last year, many people have suffered job losses and redundancies due to poor economic conditions.   Redundancy doesn’t have the stigma it had ten years ago, so tell the interviewer you were one of several job losses in your firm and that although you were upset to lose your job, you realise your bosses had difficult decisions to make.  If at all possible, tell the recruiter how you have kept your hand in, even when you’ve not been working.  You may have continued to write a relevant blog, or kept abreast of your sector’s media coverage.   Make sure you make it very clear that you are committed to a long-term relationship with your next firm and that your break from employment was for genuinely good reasons.

 

Do you have any questions?

I have lost count of the amount of people who nothing to say at this point in an interview.  Make sure you do your research before you go.  Investigate the company website, check out their media coverage, ask people who have worked there before what the firm is like.  Compile a list of questions to ask – and take it with you to the interview.   At the end, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions you can pull out your list and refer to it.  If all your questions have been answered in the course of the interview you can say “well, as you can see I did come with a big list of questions for you, but you have answered them all already, thank you!”  It demonstrates that you have done your homework.   

 

 

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Using Social Networks for Job Hunting in PR

Socialmedia2
The world of recruitment is changing.  More employers and recruitment agencies are turning to social media to find PR talent.  If you are looking for a job in PR how should you be using social media tools to find your next role?

 

Facebook

I wouldn’t recommend having an open profile on Facebook.  Most people use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends, family and the occasional colleague and are more inclined to write things on their status updates that potential employers would not be impressed with.  If you are going to make your profile completely open stay away from status updates that say “I hate my boss”, “God, work is boooooring” or “completely hungover, cannot be arsed to go to work so am pulling a sickie”.

If your profile is secure employers can’t search for you, but that’s okay.  There are other ways to use Facebook to network.  There are a couple of groups you should join; PR Job Watch and The PR and Communications Network.  If you are not currently employed put a note up on the wall saying what your areas of experience are and what you’re looking for.  You can also have a look at the posts from employers who are looking to hire their next PR.

Twitter

First of all, sign up!  I am constantly amazed by how many PRs are still not on Twitter.  It’s an amazing source of breaking news and a brilliant way for you to network with your peers without having to step out of your front door.  Follow the right people. If you haven’t a clue who they are then this list of social media power players should help.  You should also follow some PR recruitment agencies who will regularly tweet their jobs (Unicorn Jobs is @UnicornJobs) Then get yourself known.  Tweet regularly and retweet other people’s comments when you think they may be useful.  Once you are part of the PR tweeting community you are much more likely to be approached by a recruiter about a new role.  You could also follow the hashtags #PR and #PRjobs which will throw up a surprising amount of jobs that you won’t see advertised elsewhere.

LinkedIn

This seems to be the tool that most people are confused about.  LinkedIn is probably the most formal of all the networking sites and as such can be really useful when looking for new jobs.  Set up a profile making sure that you give details of all your past employment – it acts like an online CV and gives potential employers a chance to check out your skills and experience.  Unlike Facebook you should make your profile public, making it easier for recruiters and head hunters to find you.  Then connect like crazy.  Add everyone you have ever worked with, friends, family and acquaintances.  The more connections you have the more likely it is that a recruiter will be able to find you.  LinkedIn’s job search engine is worth a go too.  When you view the results concentrate on the ones that you are no more than two degrees away from – which means you know someone who knows the person who is hiring and will therefore have a better chance of being able to get in touch directly with the hiring manager.  You can also search for a specific company and see what jobs they currently have posted.  You will also be able to see their recent hires so if you are feeling brave you could get in touch with them and ask how they got their jobs there – if nothing else it might lead to a new connection.

 

 

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